I spent the better part of three days at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this past week. While I’ve been to NAIAS a number of times over the years, this was the first time I flew home knowing that I need to start doing things differently, ASAP. Although the price of gasoline may have plummeted, there’s still a mission (make that multiple missions) that must be accomplished. Gas will not stay this cheap forever.
Ford kindly flew me in with a crowd of “Digital Influencers” and I lived happily in the big blue snowglobe with my new comrades. Our agenda was non-stop, starting with a Sunday night visit to the historic Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, where the Model T was designed and built.
The Model T was originally designed to run on alcohol fuel. Henry Ford had great ideas on farm sourced fuel, but something happened along the way. That something was Prohibition. While we’ve been taught to think that Prohibition was all about restricting the drink, the truth lies somewhere else. It was very much about changing our nation’s far more lucrative fuel supply. Thank you Mr. Rockefeller. Your pockets have been well lined.
We got caught in snow-snarled traffic on the way from the hotel to Cobo Hall the next morning and arrived just as the Ford press conference was starting in the Joe Louis Arena. I was lucky to find a spot to shoot from on the side of Joe Louis arena. (Everything was shot handheld, so please excuse the shaky cam.) The Ford GT, needless to say, was the most drool-worthy vehicle unveiled at the show.
I was fortunate to schedule ten minutes with Dave Pericak (Director Ford Performance), then a bit later I tripped into Mark Fields (CEO) and Raj Nair (Group VP / CTO) while they were in the midst of a photo opp. While I did not have the chance to chat with Mark, I did spend a bit of time chatting off-camera with Raj.
I asked Raj something along the lines of “What would be better than a 600HP EcoBoost V6 Ford GT running on 93 octane premium gasoline? How about 750HP running on 103 octane renewable cellulosic E85?” He looked at me like I was the crazy person that I am, but hey, how cool is two buck chuck racing fuel with a minimal environmental impact and the only cost being a tune? Seems like the real EcoBoost is yet to come.
Perhaps that is what they’ve intended for EcoBoost all along. Maybe they’re just waiting to play the card. High Octane Ethanol fuel is ideal for forced induction engines. It burns cool. It burns clean. It’s inexpensive. And it creates gobs of horsepower. Few in the automotive press have picked up on these facts, but grassroots racers have been switching over and happily reaping the benefits.
The next day, I hopped on a bus to visit yet another historic Ford plant. When built, the Rouge plant was a marvel of modern industry, stretching for a mile, with the capability to transform raw materials into motor cars. These days, the Rouge plant is capable of producing F-150 pickup trucks at the rate of one per minute. On the day we visited, the Rouge plant was still in the midst of ramp up with the new aluminum-bodied EcoBoost F-150.
Seeing these two plants put everything in perspective. Over the past eight years, the MPGomatic website has been visited by millions of people. Our videos have been viewed over 25 million times. We’ve helped folks find the most fuel-efficient vehicle that fits their needs. Nearly every new pickup truck sold that replaces an older truck is more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. This has all put pressure on the price of fuel, as demand lessens.
But what if we could slash the demand for petroleum even further, even faster? What if the capability to do so was already roaming our streets?
What seems odd (well, to me, at least), is that the naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 F-150s are FlexFuel capable and are able to use fuel that contains from 0% to 85% ethanol, while the forced-induction EcoBoost engines are not designated as FlexFuel.
No doubt this post will bring up the ethanol-haters. All I can ask for for them to look at what’s actually happening at the grass roots level. Folks that love horsepower are happily switching over to the yellow pump. I’d like to do the same, with an EcoBoost Fiesta ST …
Disclaimer: Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the three-day NAIAS Digital Summit. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time (although I did double down on dessert). The crazed opinions posted here are my own.
– by Daniel Gray